When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlof the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he investigates, the evidence points to conspiracies far stranger and more deadly than anything he could have imagined.
Borl must travel from the decaying Beszel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own. This is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a shift in perception, a seeing of the unseen. His destination is Beszel's equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the rich and vibrant city of Ul Qoma.
With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, and struggling with his own transition, Borl is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of rabid nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman's secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them and those they care about more than their lives.
What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.
Casting shades of Kafka and Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984, The City & the City is a murder mystery taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic heights.
©2009 China Mieville; (P)2009 Random House
"Daring and disturbing...Miéville illuminates fundamental and unsettling questions about culture, governance and the shadowy differences that keep us apart." (Walter Mosley, author of Devil in a Blue Dress)
"An excellent police procedural and a fascinating urban fantasy, this is essential reading for all mystery and fantasy fans." (Booklist)
"Mr. Miéville's novels - seven so far - have been showered with prizes; three have won the Arthur C. Clarke award, given annually to the best science fiction novel published in Britain…. [H]e stands out from the crowd for the quality, mischievousness and erudition of his writing…. Among the many topics that bubble beneath the wild imagination at play are millennial anxiety, religious cults, the relationship between the citizen and the state and the role of fate and free will." (The New York Times)
Except for a strange and imperfectly-implemented sci-fi twist, it's a good noir cop story, with good characters and good narration. The sci-fi part, or maybe it's fantasy, is so subtle at first that it's hard to follow even though, or maybe because, all the characters understand perfectly. The ultimate explanation for the sci-fi part isn't especially believable, and it's hard to understand. The story is complex and hard to follow in audio; had I known, I probably would have read this rather than listening to it.
The idea of one city both next to and partially superimposed on the next city is intriguing. The mystic nature of the third city Orciny adds more interest. Very good story.
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